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6 Best Pictus Catfish Tank Mates (With Pictures)

Catfish are not normally considered stand-out fish in a community tank, but the pictus catfish may be the exception to this rule.

This is a fish that is a bottom breeder but has big ambitions, and is becoming ever more popular in the aquarium world.

These fish should not be used as a substitute for other pictus catfish, since these catfish feel most at home in a schooling group. 

As a result, you should have a minimum of three or four pictus catfish together in your tank, to really put them at ease.

Also, remember that the more fish you add to the tank the more space you should allow for, and the more resources (including food and dissolved oxygen) they will consume.

With all these considerations in mind, the following species are totally qualified to be suitable tank mates for the pictus catfish.

Giant Danios

This is usually listed as one of the preferred tank mates for the Pictus catfish, and there are very good reasons behind this popular trend.

Firstly, both these aquatic species are freshwater species, with a similar tolerance level for impurities and unwanted substances, and they also grow to a similar size.

The full-grown catfish may be longer than a full-grown Giant Danios by about an inch, but this does depend on gender and variety.

This is a high-energy fish which can create quite a spectacle as they zip around the aquarium in large schools.

They will mostly stay out of the way of the lower dwelling catfish, although sometimes their energy can be a bot contagious and the catfish can pick up considerable pace too!

With their shimmering blue halo, they can become a real feature in a medium sized freshwater tank and will appeal to hobbyists and ordinary folk alike.

Clown Loach

The clown loach is another great addition to a freshwater tank, and one which will complement the presence of existing pictus catfish species.

This is another sociable fish, which is used to sharing space in the congested waters of Borneo and South-East Asia.

Their colourful coat and distinctive stripes are bound to bring a smile to any owner, and they will happily get on with most catfish varieties.

This is a naturally peaceful fish whose main aim is peaceful co-existence.

It also has some amusing feeding patterns and it can be a joy to watch it interact with other fish or structures in the tank.

Although it can grow to be relatively large (12 inches) it is never a threat to smaller fish such as Catfish, and its diet consists mostly of generic feed or worms.

They will also eat most types of aquatic snails or insects that find their way into the tank.

Opaline Gourami

These attractive fish originally hail from the same region as the clown loach featured above, i.e. the inland waters of Borneo, Indonesia and Malaysia.

They are certainly eye-catching, with a light background and spots of iridescent blue.

They are also peaceable and calm by nature, making them ideal companions in most community tanks, including ones based around the humble Pictus catfish.

The Opaline Gourami is a real showstopper of a fish, so you shouldn’t need more than one per tank.

If you do happen to include more than one in your aquarium, then you should be wary of territorial aggression, and smaller fish such as the catfish can get caught in the middle.

This is not usually an issue in larger community tanks with a good variety of species.

The labyrinth respiratory organ of this fish make it well adapted to surviving in oxygen depleted waters, but you should avoid this condition if at all possible, as other fish in the tank may suffer.

Rainbow Shark

Far from the imposing, aggressive images that the name might give rise to, Rainbow sharks are actually small, peaceful fish from Asia who have little in common with their scarier cousins.

Although you might like to entertain your guests with their interesting name, they pose no threat to your catfish.

In fact, they are indubitably one of the best pictus catfish tank mates that money can buy.

They have a relatively neutral brownish body, but their fins are an eye-catching orange color.

They can be highly territorial and aggressive to smaller species of fish, but they will not impose themselves on similar sized fish such as catfish.

They may like to throw their weight around, but they are really all show and no substance.

If you are worried about them upsetting other fish, consider investing in partitions or a larger tank.

Tiger Barb

This pleasant looking small mid-dwelling fish may not be the first thing you think of when searching for suitable catfish companions.

They are known to nip at other fish sometimes when they zip around in schools.

Generally, because of their small stature, they don’t do much damage, but they can be an annoyance to other fish.

Thankfully, they tend to ignore bottom dwelling fish such as the Pictus Catfish, in a community tank setting.

They are pretty easy to care for and relish the same freshwater conditions as the Pictus catfish.

For instance, it prefers slightly warm water, between 20 and 26 deg. C. It also like soft water, with low levels of nitrates, and a steady pH of about 6.5.

If you really want to build up a vibrant community tank, then consider including these fish alongside the clown loaches referenced earlier.

Because of their similarities they will actually school together, and form one large fast-moving group which can look impressive even in a small, constrained indoor aquarium.

Striped Raphael Catfish

Most of the other fish on this list of the best Pictus catfish tank mates have been mid-dwellers who can easily ignore the swift catfish at the bottom of the ecosystem.

Not so with the striped Raphael Catfish.

This is a South American fish that is predominately found around the Amazon river basin.

Like the pictus catfish, they have long, distinctive barbels which they actually use to navigate the floor of the waterway, especially in muddy, unclear waters.

They are highly suitable companions for the pictus catfish for a number of reasons. They are large and sturdy, but not large enough that they will look on the smaller catfish as a tasty snack.

They have a similar, omnivorous diet and will actually work in tandem with the pictus catfish to keep the tank clean by eating algae and other edible detritus that accumulates at the bottom of the tank.

They also dwell naturally in similar waters and have a mutually suitable temperament.

Tips For Tank Setup With Pictus Catfish And Other Fish

Community tanks can be a really exciting environment. With all the mix of different colors, lighting, and sounds, they can be dazzling to the casual observers, but sometimes overwhelming for the humble inhabitants.

Sometimes tank owners forget about this and assume that every species will do fine in a community setting.


Before choosing a tank mate for a catfish such as the pictus catfish, there are so many things you need to take into account. For instance, temperament is key. In a confined environment, some fish display territorial behavior which can be fatal.


Certain species are more likely to be aggressive and to strike out at other fish. Generally, fish will only direct their aggression towards smaller fish, but occasionally the more spirited species may direct their attacks to similarly sized fish or ever larger species.

Any knowledgeable person should be able instruct you on the temperament of their fish.


Size is also important. Larger fish may see smaller fish such as catfish as potential prey. There is another reason why size matters. A community tank must be adequately sized to provide plenty of space for the inhabitants.

There should be no competition for resources, and a larger space will provide more free space to roam. This is particularly important for energetic, fast moving species like the pictus catfish.

Range Of Values

Before investing in a tank mate, you should also understand the ideal conditions which each aquatic species needs. This will generally be quoted as a range of values.

For example, fish will survive in a range of water temperatures, in a range of pH levels and a range of hardness levels.

If a fish is placed in unsuitable water conditions, then this can have disastrous effects on the long-term health and general welfare of the fish.

Some fish are more resilient to non-ideal conditions, so if possible, you should choose species which will not react violently to unbalanced water conditions.

This information should be available on the data sheet from knowledgeable suppliers.


The pictus catfish is a real attraction in any fish tank. Its graceful movement, wandering barbels and fine spotted pattern has long made it a favorite of the aquarium enthusiast’s world. This is why choosing a suitable tank mate is so important.

This decision deserves proper thought and attention. The species listed on this page are the result of detailed research and informed knowledge. They represent the best pictus catfish tank mates that are currently available on the open market.

They all have suitable personalities and physical features that allow them to share a tank with the pictus catfish.

They are generally calm, peaceable and happy to ignore or co-exist with these peace-loving bottom dwellers, without upsetting the tranquility and equilibrium of a functioning community tank.

Aaron Boyd
Aaron Boyd

Hello, I’m Aaron Boyd, the proud owner and author behind Aqua Movement. I hope my article was able to answer your questions. If you want to learn more about me, click the home icon above.

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